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Monday, January 5, 2009

Morning coughing

Jan,
Our seven-year-old chihuahua mix, Bill, coughs a lot before and during his first walk in the morning. The vet can't find anything wrong. What would you recommend?
Vicky

Vicky,
If it seems serious to you, get a second opinion. Vets will look for things like viral or bacterial infections, heart problems, and cancer, with the last two requiring a few more steps to diagnose. It's probably worth getting another vet to take a look, or to ask this vet to look "deeper."

Then again, it could be purely environmental; something in his living area mildly irritates his respiratory tract. People (especially older people) often have the same problem. They cough a lot in the mornings to clear their bronchial tubes of the mucous that settled there during the night while they rested. The coughing is productive, so it diminishes during the morning...but then the same irritants work on the airway all day, plus more mucous forms to "protect" what was irritated by the coughing....and the vicious cycle of bronchitis continues.

Here's what I'd do while waiting for more definitive news from the vet:
  • Change Bill's bedding if appropriate, and switch to using "greener" cleaners (with less perfumes) in the living quarters.
  • Put a humidifier in his sleeping area.
  • Go to the health food store and purchase some essential oils known to promote respiratory health. Eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, and geranium are examples. Often you can buy them as blends with names like "Breathe Free." Diffuse the oils in the humidifier, and rub a drop or two on Bill's neck.
  • Keep him warm, especially his back and shoulders. Knowing Bill, he probably sleeps under the covers with you, which would be just fine!
Meanwhile, the respiratory aids will help reap the same benefits as Bill. The bottom line: many home remedies work just as well for our dogs as they do for us.

Post Script: Tuesday, Jan. 6...Vicky says Bill slept with a humidifer and eucalyptus oil last night and DIDN'T COUGH this morning. Yeah!!!

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